Edric, the kids and I spent this past Monday in Tagaytay with my side of the family. The kids had a blast with their cousins, and as adults, we enjoyed our bonding time. We had dinner at the Highlands China Palace and the food was fantastic, as usual.
One of the things we often enjoy as a family is having extended conversations after dinner. We like to linger in each others’ company and exchange insights, ideas, tell jokes and stories, and we learn a lot from my parents. My dad almost always leaves us with a word of wisdom. He tries to make the most of life-on-life mentoring by using meal time as an opportunity to disciples us.
The evening’s discussion turned to the topic of managing emotions. We asked my dad a question that went something like this, “How should a person handle negative emotions. For example, if a husband has a bad day and comes home? Is it okay to be upset around your family and be moody or irritable? Should your family be understanding about your feelings?”
My dad answered this by saying,”When a person comes home, no matter what his day was like, he must remember that he is coming home to the most important people in the world. The most important people deserve the best treatment. I’ve always thought of my home as a sanctuary.” And he added, “That’s why I did not come home irritated, grumpy, or moody.”
It might seem unrealistic, but I don’t ever recall my dad coming home temperamental or upset. He was always excited to see the family, especially my mom. He was also very even-tempered about people, circumstances, and untoward happenings. My dad wasn’t the type to panic, lose his cool, or be pressured. I know he fought alot of “battles” out in the real world as a man because he and mom would communicate with each other and with us about them, but he didn’t bring home a negative spirit. And this goes back to the fact that he was a spirit-filled person, really walking with the Lord.
At this point, Edric asked with a smirk, “Dad, what do you do if the stress comes from the home or someone in the home?” I knew what he was alluding to and we both laughed out loud. In other words I think Edric was trying to say, “What if your wife stresses you out?” Ha ha ha. Well, my dad replied, “You always need to have the right perspective. Perspective is so important because it will help you to process your emotions. When I feel like getting upset with people or circumstances, I think about what is causing me to be upset. I meditate on what the appropriate response should be — the God-honoring response. I count my blessings. I choose to be grateful and thankful, especially when I realize that what I am upset about is not a big deal.” (I am paraphrasing some of this because I don’t remember the verbatim, but this is the essence.)
He also said, “And recently, after meeting Joni Eareckson Tada and hearing her life story, I was reminded once again how much I have to be thankful for.”
My parents met well-known speaker and author, Joni, during their last trip to the U.S. Her story is a testament to the fact that God has a purpose for everything that happens in our lives. When she was a teenager she had a freak accident that turned her into a quadriplegic. But she has used her story to bless the world and glorify God. If there was anyone who deserved to wallow in negative emotions it would be her, but my dad said she is an amazingly positive person, radiating with joy.
Listening to my dad share these things convicted Edric and I, and everyone else at the table. The reality is we don’t always have a spiritual perspective on people and circumstances, and at times, we let negative emotions into the sanctuary that is home and hurt the most important people in the world.
But, I think that of all the people at the table, Edric and I had to apply what my dad shared the most. If there is anything that we don’t see eye to eye on, it is how to deal with emotions. As a passionate and intense person, Edric feels both positive and negative emotions to a much greater extent than I do. When he is enjoying something, he is like a person on fire and he is the most fun, entertaining person to be with. But when he is feeling down, it’s like there’s a visible gray cloud over his head.
Over the years, he has practiced being spirit-filled, and is able to snap out of his negative emotions much faster and process what’s going on in a more productive way. However, from time to time, I will react to the way he deals with his feelings. I know that it probably sounds like such a small deal — a husband’s “from-time-to-time-irritation,” when so many people out there have bigger marital problems to deal with. And this is an area I need to work on. I can be too sensitive about negativity because of my upbringing. In my home, as a kid, everything seemed sort of “sunshiney” and “light-heartedy.” Home was a very positive, affirming environment where people kept short accounts with one another. No one lingered in their irritation or frustrations, conflict was resolved quickly, and we were not allowed to be moody…ever…not even if the ladies in the house were going through their “cycle.” My mom always said, “You need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Moodiness is selfishness.”
When Edric and I got married, I saw how differently we processed our feelings. He was perplexed by me and I was perplexed by him. He didn’t understand how I could easily get over something that frustrated me. I, on the other hand, really liked that Edric was a motivated, eager, romantic, and passionate person, but couldn’t understand how things like heat, hunger, or traffic could make him irritable.
God used marriage to deal with alot of things in my heart. He revealed to me areas where I needed to improve. My problem was I didn’t feel like respecting Edric when he was irritable or emotional. In fact, I would try to correct him and point out that he was wrong, almost always at the worst possible time. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:33 “…Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” God will hold a husband accountable for being loving towards his wife, but God will hold a wife accountable for respecting her husband.
Even if my intentions are good when I am trying to help him to change, my reactive-ness toward Edric is not respectful. And it isn’t even effective. God often has to remind me that it is not my mission to change my husband. That is God’s department. I need to focus more on my role as a wife and have a lot of areas to improve in.
Matthew 7:3 says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Early on in marriage, I learned that praying for Edric instead of reacting to him is more effective. The times when I have stepped aside to let God work on Edric, he transforms! In fact, over the years he has become an even more wonderful husband — more loving, positive, and spirit-filled. We still have our tensions and issues, but marriage gets better every year.
After our time at the restaurant ended, Edric took my hand as he often does and we walked back to the car. “I liked what Dad shared,” he said. “It was practical and it made a lot of sense. I’m going to apply it…” I smiled and hugged him.
When Edric said his marriage vows to me, he never promised to be a perfect husband, but he promised that he would always be willing to change. After ten years of marriage, I can attest to the fact that he has kept that promise. We still live with our differences but by God’s grace, we are still in love!